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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Classic Thriller Is Given a Strong Production at Hayswood


 
Carrie Cooke Ketterman and Jeff Ketterman in Wait Until Dark.
Photo – Hayswood Theatre.

Wait Until Dark

By Frederick Knott
Directed by Bob Trinkle

Reviewed by Keith Waits.

Entire contents are copyright © 2013 Keith Waits. All rights reserved. 

Wait Until Dark is a venerable old chestnut of the thriller genre – a classically structured build to a tense showdown that is decidedly old-fashioned in light of the hyper-kinetic and overblown violence that passes for suspense in contemporary films. As for the stage, it is difficult to locate any new plays of this type being written. Ira Levin’s Deathtrap is perhaps the last great entry to date, and it is in fact an ironic parody of the form.

Frederick Knott was famous for these kinds of gimmicky suspense plots. Dial M for Murder is perhaps his best known creation. But Wait Until Dark is arguably a more plausible scenario that sneaks in some welcome subtext.

A three-man crew attempts to con a young blind woman into helping them locate a child’s doll filled with heroin. It is a simple idea executed with fair economy and diabolical strategy that originates from a simpler time. One can easily imagine the story would be a blood-drenched horror show if written today. Criminals going to this much trouble to be clever and ingenious seems as foreign to modern audiences as the details of a blind person using sugar cubes to keep track of numbers.

Bob Trinkle’s production stays firmly tied to the original period of the early 1960s, with rotary phones and a refrigerator light that can illuminate an entire apartment – only two of the details one can highlight from a set design that is a marvel of mid-century urban mood. This is truly some of the best work for sets and props I have seen from a small community theatre like Hayswood. Kudos to Scott Smith and his team and to props master Emily Trinkle for the detail in everything from the vintage LIFE magazines on the coffee table to the vinyl record albums stacked next to the record player (Bobby Vinton was on top). One of the common pet peeves of community theatres is the inability to accurately represent a period. Wait Until Dark succeeds beautifully on this score.

As Suzy, the woman who is targeted by these men in her own apartment, Carrie Cook Ketterman comes off at first as a little too naive and disingenuous. But as the story develops, it only underscores how easily she is underestimated by the bad guys when she begins to outwit them before her struggle for survival grows more desperate. As the lead villain, Jeff Ketterman also begins the play underplaying the potential menace of his character, so that the degree of ruthlessness he is capable of might still catch us off guard in the final scenes.

Allen Platt does well by Mike Talman, the most sympathetic of the three miscreants; and Jake Minton also gives good support rounding out the trio as Carlino. Kira Hanger was suitably annoying as Gloria, the bratty neighbor’s kid who eventually comes through in a pinch. Scott Smith is adequate as Suzy’s husband Sam, who is shuttled offstage fairly quickly once introduced.

The truth is there isn’t much for him to do, because playwright Knott is resolute in keeping the action focused on Suzy’s ability to fend for herself without the help of a man. Not to claim too much feminist subtext for a commercial entertainment that originates from before the women’s movement really got going, but it is a satisfying avoidance of cliché. Sam seems a good guy, but his only meaningful interaction in the play is a steadfast refusal to make Suzy’s life easier by waiting on her. His insistence on forcing her to do things for herself and not be dependent on him could be read as something more than just a plot device to establish her bona fides before the final physical confrontations.

The intent of Wait Until Dark may be to keep you in suspense, but it is the strength of the heroine that makes the play worthwhile fifty years after its premiere.

Wait Until Dark
October 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 & 19 at 8 p.m.
October 6, 13 & 20 at 2 p.m.

Haywood Theater
115 S. Capitol Ave.
Corydon, IN 47112
812-738-2138


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